TRAI wants spectrum cap revised to 35 per cent

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has suggested the revision of overall spectrum cap from the current limit of 25 per cent to touch 35 per cent.

In its responses to the paper ‘Issues relating to spectrum cap’, TRAI said that there should be a cap of 50 per cent on the combined spectrum holding in the sub-1 GHz bands (700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands) instead of the intra-cap band which it suggests removing.

The government recently constituted an inter-ministerial group (IMG) on ‘Stress in balance sheet in select sectors’. The IMG, among others, reviewed the spectrumcap applicable for telecom service providers (TSPs). IMG, in its report, stated that the issue of spectrum cap merits detailed examination and variety inputs from sectoral regulators. In light of IMG report, DoT, on 29 September 2017 requested TRAI to provide its views on spectrum cap.

Presently, there is a cap of 25 per cent of the total spectrum assigned in 700/800/900/1800/2100/2300/2500 MHz bands and 50 per cent within a given band in each of the service area.

The authority sought comments of the telecom service providers and took note of the following:

• Overall spectrum cap of 25 per cent was imposed at a time when there were 6-10 TSPs in a local service area (LSA). After the ongoing consolidation in the sector, the number of TSPs in a LSA may be much less.

• The spectrum being assigned through auction is a liberalised spectrum. At present, more than 80 per cent of the spectrum held by various service providers is liberalised spectrum wherein they can use any technology of their choice in any band or using multiple bands.

• As LTE device ecosystem is evolving in each of the spectrum band, there is no real need to put spectrum cap in each spectrum band. In fact, asking a TSP to acquire spectrum in different band to deploy the same technology increase the cost of network with no real gains.

• Sub-1 GHz bands are perceived as the most optimal bands to ensure availability of wireless broadband services over large areas with low population density. Therefore, spectrum in sub-1 GHz range - 700 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz should be treated separately and special provisions have to be made to safeguard against creation of monopoly

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